Britain should stay in a customs union with the European Union even after it leaves the bloc, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said yesterday, setting up a possible parliamentary defeat for Prime Minister Theresa May.
As May tries to strike a divorce deal with the European Union by October, she faces a rebellion by a small group of pro-Europeans inside her Conservative Party that Labour Party leader Corbyn hopes to use to undermine her authority.
May has ruled out any customs union with the EU after Brexit because it would prevent Britain from striking new trade deals with fast-growing economies including as China and India.
Corbyn explicitly backed a customs union in a speech yesterday, setting the stage for Labour lawmakers to join Conservative rebels in supporting the necessary amendments to trade legislation.
"Labour would seek to negotiate a new comprehensive UK-EU customs union to ensure there are no tariffs with Europe and to help avoid any need whatsoever for a hard border in Northern Ireland," Corbyn said in the central English city of Coventry.
But the veteran left-winger disappointed some anti-Brexit politicians in his party by indicating he, like May, favours Britain leaving the EU's single market - the only way it would be able to prevent unlimited immigration from Europe.
In a bid to win over rebels in May's party, Corbyn appealed to members of parliament of all parties and said Labour would not support any deal that would do lasting damage to jobs, rights and living standards.
"I appeal to MPs of all parties to be prepared to put the people's interests before the ideological fantasies," he said.